Food + Art: Growing Rural Businesses and Communities - Pender, Neb.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Local foods and the arts are emerging market opportunities for rural communities and businesses owners. This conference focuses on giving small food and arts-based businesses tools they need to be successful and access to resources usually only found at larger conferences in urban areas.

Who: Aspiring and current food and arts based small business owners, rural community and economic developers 

What: A conference offering resources and connections for food and arts-based small businesses, and rural community or economic developers wishing to develop local economic opportunities around local foods and the arts.

When: Thursday, Oct. 10, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., followed by an optional post-conference session 4 to 6 p.m. (free pre-sessions will be offered Wednesday, Oct. 9 in Walthill and Winnebago - see below for details)

Where: Pender Community Center, 614 Main St., Pender, Nebraska 68047

Cost: Click here to register.

  • $25 registration, includes lunch and a full day of training sessions.
  • Optional post-conference session: $20, includes dinner and limited to 25 people. Leave this session with a 2-page action plan for your business and/or business idea.
  • Student and group rates are available. For more information, contact Sandra at or 402.687.2100 ext. 1009.

Opening keynote speaker, Michael Fortunato of Creative Insight Community Development, will kick off the conference. Michael consults and specializes in innovative approaches to developing food hubs, business incubation and entrepreneurship, and developing creative community strategies through art and makerspaces.

The conference will offer nine breakout sessions on topics of funding, small business basics, food hubs, how to market and sell your art, developing cooperatives, and community development around local foods and the arts.

Free consultation opportunities throughout the conference with Center for Rural Affairs Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) loan specialists will be available on site.

An optional tour of available retail spaces in the area will be offered, along with live food demos in the exhibition area.


8 to 8:30 a.m. Registration opens, light refreshments, visit exhibitors

8:30 to 8:50 a.m. Welcome, opening keynote with Michael Fortunato

9 to 10:15 a.m. Session 1 breakouts

  • Small business basics, business plans, and start up
  • Discussion panel - Innovative approaches to developing food hubs
  • How to market and sell your art

10:15 to 10:30 a.m. Morning break

10:30 to 11:45 a.m. Session 2 breakouts

  • Cooperative development for food and arts based businesses
  • Community centered economic development through local food and the arts
  • Lessons learned from community food projects in native communities

11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Lunch - box lunches and networking with exhibitors in the main hall

12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Session 3

  • Free small business consultations
  • Walking tour of available retail spaces
  • Live food demos
  • Advice and tips on forming a cooperative
  • Regional and local art work, artisan crafts, and food products from area farmers markets
  • Free samples 

1:45 to 2 p.m. Afternoon break with snacks and smoothies

2 to 3:15 p.m. Session 4 breakouts

  • Finding the right funding roundtable discussions
  • How to start an agritourism business in the middle of nowhere
  • Developing a web presence and social media for your business

3:15 to 3:30 p.m. Closing


Two free pre-sessions with keynote Michael Fortunato will be offered on Wednesday, Oct. 9. 

  • “How to launch a successful art-based business" at the Walthill Firehall, 123 Main St. in Walthill from 9 to 11 a.m. 
  • “Innovative approaches to developing food hubs for profit” at HoChunk Community Development Corporation, 509 Buffalo Trail (behind Dollar General) in Winnebago from 2 to 4 p.m. 

Please contact Vicky to reserve a space in the pre-session at or 402.687.2100 ext. 1038. Space is limited!


Exhibition space is available. If you would like to showcase your food or arts based business at this conference, please contact Kristin Walsh at or 402.385.6240


   Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) a program of the Center for Rural Affairs

Food + Art: growing rural businesses and communities is funded by a USDA Rural Business Development Grant. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.